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"The Department of State advises U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert to the potential for violence, to avoid those areas where disturbances have occurred, and to avoid demonstrations and large gatherings," the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul said in a statement.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attack "in the strongest terms" and said Turkey and the U.S. will get the U.K.’s full support as they seek to hold those responsible to account.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmusen added his condemnation, calling it "an outrageous attack" that "shows a reckless disregard for human life and for the inviolability of diplomatic staff."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message to President Barack Obama, saying he was "shocked and saddened to learn of the vicious terrorist attack."
Ed Royce, the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the attack was "another stark reminder of the constant terrorist threat against U.S. facilities, personnel and interests abroad."
"Coming after Benghazi, it underscores the need for a comprehensive review of security at our diplomatic posts. The committee stands ready to assist the State Department in protecting our diplomats," he said in a statement.
Turkey’s parliament speaker, Cemil Cicek, linked Friday’s attack to the arrest last month of nine Turkish human rights lawyers, who prosecutors have accused of links to the DHKP-C.
"There was an operation against this organization," Cicek said and suggested the attack could be an attempt by the group to "say ‘We are still here, we are alive.’"
James F. Jeffrey, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who was U.S. ambassador in Turkey between 2008 and 2010, said DHKP-C was a resilient group that had been "relatively quiescent" in recent years. He said the organization was born out of the 1970s European tradition of pro-communist terrorism, and he drew a parallel with Germany’s now-defunct Baader-Meinhof gang.
"I do not see them as a major threat compared to al-Qaida," Jeffrey said of DHKP-C in a conference call with journalists. The group, he said, typically attacks with small arms and conducts periodic assaults "just to make sure people know they’re still out there."
He said it seemed to have "very deep roots" and means of recruitment in several urban centers, including Istanbul, Ankara and possibly the coastal city of Izmir. Jeffrey said it was unlikely the attack was a response to recent regional developments — including, for example, Israel’s strike this week on a Syrian target — but did not rule out that DHKP-C conducted the bombing as a kind of subcontractor for another group.
He also said the embassy’s strong defenses worked as they were supposed to, with the "minimum number of casualties" for such a grave attack.
"It’s a very hard perimeter to crack, as we saw today," Jeffrey said.
In past years, the DHKP-C group has spearheaded hunger strikes against Turkish prison conditions that led to the deaths of dozens of inmates. The protesters opposed a maximum-security system in which prisoners were held in small cells instead of large wards.
In September, police said a leftist militant threw a grenade and then blew himself up outside a police station in Istanbul, killing a police officer and injuring seven others. Police identified the bomber as a member of the DHKP-C.
In 2008, Turkish police said they had foiled a bomb plot by DHKP-C against some U.S. companies in Turkey.
Turkey has also seen attacks linked to homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaida. In a 2003 attack on the British consulate in Istanbul, a suspected Islamic militant rammed an explosive-laden pickup truck into the main gate, killing 58 people, including the British consul-general.
Associated Press writers Ezgi Akin in Ankara, Turkey, Christopher Torchia in Istanbul, Nedra Pickler and Bradley Klapper in Washington, Raf Casert in Brussels, and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.
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